- The ugly but apparently immortal snake of “scientific” racism – “proof” of Black intellectual inferiority – has reared its head again. The most recent entry is Race: the Reality of Human Differences by Vincent Sarich, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, and Frank Miele, senior editor with Skeptic magazine. The essence of the book is that despite much recent discussion to the contrary, races (the traditional three) are real and distinguished by cognition and morality as well as by physical differences. As usual the Black “race” finishes last. The authors begin by critiquing some pronouncements that have been made by people who oppose the idea of race. They follow with a discussion of the history and anthropology of “race” as a concept. Attempting to bolster the underpinnings of their own arguments they point out that awareness if color differences is as old as civilized art and that imputing inferiority to blacks has a long and history. They argue that “racism” is not a new concept developed from European colonization. (I agree.) But perception of color differences is obvious and by itself unimportant. And what people thought in the past about race is no more relevant to what science knows today than what they thought about the shape of the earth. Moreover, groups everywhere are very aware of self/other and color is an obvious and easy way to make distinctions. Groups are also universally convinced of their own superiority, regardless of their own color or economy. So denigrating statements about “others” hardly mean much.
- Most of the book discusses the study of genetic measures used to describe the times and directions of branching of the human family tree. The book then morphs into a discussion of the biological reality of three great “races,” black, white, Asiatic; the reality of biological inequality; and the demonstrable deficiencies of the Black “race.” The deficiencies are discussed in terms of low IQ and a pattern of life histories that purport to describe the deficiencies of Black life and character. Sarich knows an enormous amount about genetic clocks and has certainly contributed a great deal toward our understanding of the branching of the human family. We are treated to a great deal of his expertise – some self-contradictory, much self aggrandizing – in fact far more than is warranted by the main thrust of the argument. This emphasis is designed, I think, to give an overwhelming scientific veneer to the their real goal, the pseudoscience that follows.
- Despite discussing human variation and its infinite branches, the authors continue to assert that there are three great races ignoring the number of populations that don’t fit (most) and the existence of gradations (clines) in most variables, which belie their classification. […]
Mark Cohen’s Review on Amazon
- Can I give zero stars? I would if I could. This is a dreadful book, destroying science to pander to racist goals. Sarich is a known and respected scientist but in this book he mostly leans on that respect to promote his most unscientific racist agenda. He ignores a great deal of evidence of the range of human variation, the lack of correlation of most genes with color. He says that those of us who attack the race concept won't provide a workable definition to refute. But there is, in fact, a perfectly workable definition of race that has been stated many times, but that they ignore. Races, if they existed would be tightly bound groups of people, very homogeneous within and markedly distinct from others. This is a preposterous idea to defend given what is known of human variation across and WITHIN groups and the authors for the most part don't even try. Variations like color and nose shape are each on a continuum and cannot be partitioned clearly except in an absolutely arbitrary way; and supposed "Racial" traits like color, shapes of nose, eyes, lips, hair and hair color, the sickle cell trait and many others don't correlate with one another. (Sickle cell disease, despite popular stereotypes, is relatively rare among dark skinned populations, found in only a few groups; and it also occurs in many light skinned populations. Black skin has appeared many times separately in human evolution. The authors simply ignore the enormous number (in fact great majority) of highly varied populations around the world that don't match their stereotypes in order to stick to their recognition and manipulation of three great "races."
- But when the book moves from the genetics of human variation to IQ and cultural performance, the author's ignorance is even more appalling. They know nothing at all about variations in human behavior or the science of IQ testing and the problems with tests described repeatedly in the literature. Their claim, offered twice out of the blue, that the average intelligence of Sub-Saharan Africa is 70, would imply individuals and whole societies that were simply dysfunctional. Even my IQ-believing friends find that number absolutely preposterous. Anyone with any knowledge of African cultures and accomplishments would find the number silly. The sense of IQ and the culture and life histories of blacks comes from JP Rushton, a noted racist who the authors make no attempt to challenge in any way. Rushton uses a bizarre choice of questions and highly manipulated data that are easily dismissed by anyone with anthropological knowledge Sarich and Miele know nothing about the content of the tests, the conditions under which they were given, the tested population, the language in which tested--literally hundreds of languages if the results refer to all of Sub-Saharan Africa.
- They and the people who's work they use ignore all of these problems and ignore the power of human culture including our own to limit peoples perception of the culture of others. They completely ignore the enormous problems of testing IQ across cultural boundaries, which are sometimes very subtle. I could go on at great length but I will conclude by saying that the only reason to read this book is to recognize parody of science.
See Link (Defunct).
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)